Bucket List Gold Camp Road

Gold Camp Road Scenery

Well I finally did it… I drove the length of Gold Camp Road from Victor to Colorado Springs, something I have always wanted to do but never quite worked up the nerve to actually do! I wasn’t planning on it… The plan was to test out the GPS on the phone by driving in a couple of miles to Almagre Mountain and hike a couple miles to the summit for some exercise. The GPS worked splendidly, taking me not a couple of miles, but five miles to a turn off and then three more on a rugged forest road to an unmarked turnout, at which time it told me I had “arrived at my destination”. There were no trail markings, no real hiking trail, just an ugly jeep road heading right up the side of the mountain 😦

Rugged Gold Camp Road Colorado

Pretty soon another four wheeler pulled up and saw me looking up the mountain and asked me skeptically I might add, if my truck had 4wd. No, I replied… my plan was to hike the short route on foot to the summit. Looking relieved he responded, well it’s about two miles up this jeep road to another jeep road at which time you turn left to another jeep road and it will take you to the summit. Apparently there is another trailhead up yet another jeep road a couple of miles up Gold Camp that is supposed to be shorter but I wasn’t able to locate that route. Having already climbed Grouse Mountain earlier in the day I decided to abandon that plan and head for home…

Gold Camp Road

However once I got back to Gold Camp Road I got to thinking it might be fun to check off that bucket list item and complete the drive down to Colorado Springs. So I turned the old Dodge left and went for broke. Lol… now for my description of Gold Camp Road… It is a stupendously bad washboard riddled, pothole filled, rocky, curvy narrow road traveling through numerous single lane sections between rocky walls that don’t always stay in place and some allegedly haunted tunnels. Several times I had to maneuver around minor cave ins, large rocks in the road and huge holes. My truck was rattling, my teeth were rattling and everything passing by in the other direction was rattling! And that was the good part… when I got closer to the Springs the ride got steeper, rockier, and even more filled with holes!

Gold Camp Road Scenery

That being said though, the scenery was spectacular, especially the steep part near the Springs. There were a few places where it was possible to look back on the rugged mountains of the Pike National Forest and even though it was mid day by then some of my pictures are kind of nice, at least I think so anyway πŸ™‚ Also the road is lined with aspen groves from end to end so I would highly recommend this route to autumn leaf seekers! I think the colors will be spectacular in late September and early October this year!

Finally I arrived at the end of the dirt road and wound the rest of my way down to the city on the paved portion of Old Stage Road, which I think is what Gold Camp used to be called. According to Westside Pioneer Online, the road has a rich old west history with it’s beginnings as a railway to transport gold ore between Cripple Creek and Midland. Now it popular with four wheelers and ATV enthusiasts and I also saw a few mountain bikers negotiating the steep ascent from Colorado Springs.

Don’t think I’ll need to make that trip again, unless maybe I finally get the jeep that I have been wanting my entire life… but that’s a whole ‘nuther story! As always a couple of these images are available for purchase as wall art and gift items on my website! The traffic and the heat down in the city were horrendous so I think I’ll just sit out the rest of the holiday weekend and wait for the tourists to go home. Next week when the mountains aren’t so crowded I may visit Waterton Canyon again and I have hopes of hiking to Continental Falls near Breck πŸ™‚ Stay tuned!

 

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Flying by Instruments

Day three of my “Getting Back in Shape” campaign… no discernible physical progress, but at least the effort is helping to clear my head of a lot of unwanted clutter. Funny how a goal and some physical exertion can do that. I was thinking about a road trip and a major hike or bike ride today but after remembering that it is Labor Day weekend and the last chance for the summer tourists to invade the mountains I thought better of it. Decided to avoid all the traffic and check AllTrails to see if I might be able to find something closer by to explore.

Royal Gorge Colorado and Sangre de Cristo Mountains

Well it turns out that a ton of trails have been added since I last used my favorite hiking app! I found a bunch of new local trails to explore, now just to find them… Well, the Almagre Mountain Trail looks good, and close by too! Let me see… there is a directions button, so I click it and a Google Map comes up with a blue line on it pointing in the general direction based on my stated location. And that’s it. Last time I was on the directions actually would tell you where to go, what roads to take, where to turn 😦 Of course I am a little behind the times, my GPS turned off… because you know, the government might find me. Which begs the question… why would the government want to find me? When putting some rational thought to it… if the government is really looking for me we must have a lot of government employees without shit to do 😐 Of course that probably is actually the case, but they would have to be really bored to be looking for me!!!!

So I turn on my GPS, but still just a map and a blue line. How the heck am I supposed to find a trail head with just this stupid fat blue line to go by? Hmmm… a start button… that might be a good place to start πŸ™‚ So I pushed the button and almost fell out of my chair! A voice from God or something telling me to turn right on Eaton Avenue! Holy Crap, all I have to do is push start and my phone is going to guide me right to the trailhead! Who knew? Lol, eventually I decided to just follow my normal routine today while vowing to explore some more of the tools now available to me in this amazing app! For starters I recorded my hike today, complete with a map and elevation gain statistics. Cool, so I saved it, not sure what for or what good it is going to do me. Noticed that for some reason that I still have no stats available to the stats button.

So now a whole new world is open to me, numerous new trails to explore right off of Gold Camp road only a few miles from home plus gps to guide me into more remote locations. Also will make the trailhead for Mount Quandary easier to find for later in the month when I hope to be ready for the Class 1 peak. Tomorrow I will attempt to find the Almagre Mountain Trail as I learn to “trust my instruments” and use the new tools available to me via this amazing piece of technology called a “smart phone”! Man… what I could have done with one of these things back in the day!

For now though, a little weight lifting, a few pushups and sit ups and maybe even a ride on my mountain bike. Which reminds me… I need to investigate similar capabilities in my other favorite sports apps, Singletracks and 14ers.com πŸ™‚

Huge Bull Elk

Had to share my mountaintop with a huge bull elk this morning. As I cleared the ridge I spotted a few buck mule deer in the distance running back and forth making it difficult

Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

to get a decent shot. As I moved around a grove of trees in hopes of getting a closer view without disturbing them even more I spotted something else in the woods staring out at me. A massive bull elk was peering through the branches at me! I quickly attached my camera to the monopod / trekking pole and got off a couple of zooms. Unfortunately my camera must have picked up a branch or twig near the animal’s face because those turned out slightly out of focus 😦

As I continued my way along the trail the elk moved out into a clearing where he was keeping a close eye on me. I got a few captures with him posing against the wildflower filled meadow and then he moved onto the top of the ridge where I was able to include the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.Lone Bull Elk in the Rockies

Unfortunately it was quite a gloomy morning so the images don’t pop as much as I would like, but I’m very happy to have seen the majestic beast and happy to include these images into the permanent record πŸ™‚

As always, these images and more are available for purchase on my website in the elk and wildlife galleries!

My Go To Move

One go to move has served me well throughout my entire life, when I am down and can’t think of anything I want to do I can always find the motivation to “get in shape”. Since my best buddy crossed Rainbow Bridge last week I haven’t felt like doing anything, nothing sounds good, nothing sounds fun and I have been just laying around the house watching stupid shows on TV.

Bucks in Grouse MeadowBut today the old message finally came through, “You can’t get all out of shape now.”. So even though I didn’t want to and I knew I was going to feel nothing but sadness on top of the mountain that I have never climbed without my Big Dog, I packed up my gear and drove to the trailhead.Β  It took a lot less timeΒ  to reach the summit without having to stop and dig up every prairie dog hole along the way and I got a lot more out of breath with the more steady pace that I can set without so many distractions.

But without the unbridled enthusiasm of my big four legged buddy to light the way, most of the joy has been removed from the experience. However there is still the idea in the back of my head that I am training for something greater, perhaps there will be a 14er in my future, or maybe a long hike into the wilderness to see a waterfall. I have been looking at Mount Quandary on my 14ers.com account… Maybe it will be my first peak in my sixth decade of life on this earth. Time will tell.

I didn’t see any animals at the summit, but on my way down I encountered my three buck mule deer friends who were on their way in a hurry, probably to some favorite location in the high meadows πŸ™‚

Bucks in Grouse Meadow

Dog Days of Summer 2019

The Dog Days of Summer… According to Wikipedia, “The dog days or dog days of summer are the hot, sultry days of summer. They were historically the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.”. For me, the sun is up way before I am, the colors are obliterated by the intense light of the overhead sun, the animals are all hiding in the shade. Do I want to sweat out a photo shoot in vain? Or…

vParadox Brewery in Divide Coloradoo

What better time to try out a new watering hole πŸ™‚ I have driven past this place a hundred times, it’s right by some sort of feed plant and I always thought the unexplored building was just part of the feed business in rural Divide, Colorado. Until the other day I was doing a search for brew pubs and Paradox showed up in the search results. So I’m thinking, I know that place, it’s the feed building I’m always driving past????

Saw the bighorn sheep up on 67 the other day at about 2:30… no camera along of course but I make a note of the time and place thinking that they might be making a return trip on another day…

Paradox Brewery in Divide ColoradoSo the trip is planned, bring along the camera so in case I see the sheep, if not… onward to the brew pub. I love a sure fire plan :) Well those pesky sheep knew I had the camera along so they stayed out of view like always when I have my camera :( No matter, onward to the brew pub.

And what a cool place it is! I can imagine it used to be some sort of country business, a

Paradox Brewery in Divide Colorado

big metal building with double garage doors facing the south with an awesome view of the northwest face of Pikes Peak, I might add! I entered the building past some brewing barrels and into a comfortable tasting room where I encountered a friendly and knowledgeable young lady behind the bar who was happy to let me taste the large variety of brews that they currently have on tap πŸ™‚ Never had beer like this though, all called “sour beer”. Some are more sour than others but I did find one that I liked, called “Future Knowledge”.

Paradox Brewery in Divide Colorado

Outside the big doors is a nice outdoor beer garden with a view of the great peak… The sun was a bit too intense for me this day so I chose to just enjoy the cool shade of the bar at 10,000 feet of elevation πŸ™‚ Outside also is a food truck which was serving some tasty steak, chicken or fish tacos.

I arrived fairly early, probably earlier than most people would be out and about so I had the place pretty much to myself for a while, which suits me just fine πŸ™‚ It wasn’t long though, before the place started filling up, looks like a pretty popular place for those in the know! So anyway, that was how I whiled away one hot dry Dog Day in this short Rocky Mountain summer πŸ™‚ I highly recommend this place if you have an afternoon or evening that you can spend just relaxing in the Rocky Mountain High Country πŸ™‚

 

Storm Chasing Debut

Tornado watch in parts of the state, flash flood advisories, hail and torrential rain… all in the forecast. I had the day off on Thursday and I could already see the storm clouds billowing into the sky to the west. Looked like it was going to be a great day to get some storm pictures so I consulted the weather charts to find the most likely viewing opportunities. I was hoping the storms would come right up from the Arkansas River Valley where I would get a good view from all my favorite overlooks… but no such luck. Pikes Peak is so massive that it often creates it’s own weather, and even more often it shapes the weather as it pleases. On this day it appeared that the big mountain would split the storm with the worst of the activity streaming towards the north over Woodland Park and on into Colorado Springs.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds

There have been reports of bighorn sheep activity along highway 67 so what the heck, I might be able to get some wildlife pictures and storm pictures on one trip.. so I loaded up my gear and headed over the pass. Unfortunately there were no sheep but it wasn’t long before I was in a major downpour! Obviously being in the midst of the storm is not the optimal photographic scenario so I pressed on to Divide thinking that the park on top of the hill might be a great place to see the storm development in all directions. Well I could definitely see in all directions but the best part of the storm was still right over me with no good views of the thunderheads in any direction. Bummer… well I thought, maybe Pikes Peak will have some interesting activity to view from the mountainsides in Woodland Park. Needed to stop there for supplies anyway so off to Woodland Park we went.

The big peak was putting on a pretty good show so me and the big dog climbed the ridge on the north side of Ute Pass and we got a few nice shots from there. We also saw some deer but were not able to get into position for any decent pictures, the underbrush is just so thick and lush due to all the rain this year. It almost looks like a rain forest like Oregon or Washington! So a few shots of clouds streaming over the massive mountain were all that we were going to get on this day.

On the return trip I could see storm activity all around but no matter where I went… there were trees in the way, or a hill or a mountain or the edge of a cliff with no place to park.

Pikes Peak Colorado Thunderstorm Clouds Finally I thought I might be able to see from the top of the gold mine… but there was still the rest of the mountain to the north in the way of the best view. A quick trip down to Victor Pass from there provided a somewhat anticlimactic view of the remnants of the days storm on the south face of Pikes Peak, but overall the whole dayΒ  was a major disappointment.

I guess the lesson learned from this story is that storm chasing in the mountains might be a losing proposition… Colorado is not like Kansas where there is a uniform network of farm roads that allow you to get anywhere you want to go in a hurry. We have long winding roads with mountains in the way everywhere! I did get a tip though that might prove useful in the future. Apparently there was a good view from the one place I didn’t go, the high plateau traversed by Teller County Road 1. I’ll give that a shot next time.

As always these pictures and more are available for purchase as wall art on my website on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional framing and matting. Tons of cool gift items, tech gadgets, apparel and household items are also available with a beautiful mountain scenery by S.W. Krull Imaging.

Over the Hump

Read an interesting factoid the other day… Apparently August 2nd is a significant day in Colorado, it is the day that marks the beginning of the rapid falloff in temperatures in the slide towards fall and winter. The chart below from the U.S. Climate Data site shows in dramatic visual form the steep curve of change in temperature and precipitation as the heat of summer loses it’s edge to the receding light of the sun.

And to me that means I am over the hump of my most Screenshot_2019-08-04 Climate Colorado - temperature, rainfall and averagedifficult time of year πŸ™‚ For a landscape photographer, the harsh direct overhead light of the summer sun is death to an image. The bright sun drains out all the color and shadow that can make an image compelling. For a Colorado wildlife photographer, stifling heat by 8:00 a.m. means all the animals are lying down in the shade in the dense pine forest well out of view. Sunrise at 5:00 a.m. means a 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. start to the day if you want to catch the best light, a difficult goal when you are up until 12:30 trying to make a living the night before. For Big Dog, the heat of the summer sun shining through the truck window means he has to stay home a lot more often, and without my hiking buddy along my weekend excursions a lot less enjoyable.

Here in Cripple Creek it was a beautiful cool morning, the birds are chirping happily and

Trio of Autumn Bighorn

the Teller County Fair is over, the legion of trucks and campers are pulling out and making their way home. I’m tired today, the sun is already shining brightly and I think I’ll take a day off from hiking and shooting to just sit here and enjoy the peace that the end of the hustle and bustle of summer brings with my favorite time of year just around the corner. Autumn… and I have wisely scheduled two weeks off so that I can make the most of it πŸ™‚ Teller County has some of the best aspen color viewing in the state and this year I will be able to enjoy the Fall Color Festival, something I bitterly missed last year because I was working through the entire thing.

By autumn the sun has traveled significantly to the south, it’s low profile in the sky creating a much more friendly lighting scenario for photography. The leaves of the great aspen stands will be in full glory and the crisp clear mountain air sets an inviting stage for hiking and mountain biking in the back country.Β  The animals will emerge from the dark of the forest, the elk, deer and bighorn sheep in full glory for the autumn rut and the bears all out in their determined search for enough calories to nourish them throughout the long Rocky Mountain winter.

So today I rest in the knowledge that I am over the summer hump, my mind turning toward the joy of autumn, my laptop trained on topo maps of the great Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Ahhhh….

Crystal Creek Autumn